Friday, March 13, 2009

Almost Famous

Like multitudes of other little girls singing into their hairbrushes and performing dances for their parents at dinner time, I wanted to be famous since almost the exact moment that I found out what fame was. How I would solidify my name on the Hollywood walk of fame changed from time to time. From singing sensation to dance superstar to skateboarder to artist and back to singing sensation, I just knew something was going to make me famous.

I can’t remember the exact moment that I realized I probably never would be famous. It certainly wasn’t as devastating as finding out about Santa Claus not being real or where babies actually came from. It was more of a gradual recognition – a realization that snuck in slowly and never reared its abrupt head. Maybe a part of me unconsciously held out some small portion of hope that I would attain fame and fortune one day, so I never really felt too bummed about being just a normal girl.

I called our league accountant earlier this week to set up a much needed and overdue appointment to have our league taxes done. They know and love us at Jan Abrams Tax Office – I’m not sure if it’s because we’re rollergirls or because we’re in Smalltimore, where everyone just remembers everyone else because it’s such a small city, but it actually makes me really happy that they know who I am when I call. Even though I get a fair amount of applause when introduced in derby, I feel like I’m not one of the more memorable skaters – at least not to the typical bout audience, but at least I am to our vendors!

After we set up the tax appointments, the office manager goes on to tell me that her daughter wants to kill me.

“Why?” I asked, wondering what I could have possibly done to this woman I don’t know.

“Because ever since last April my granddaughter has been intent on wanting to be a rollergirl when she grows up!”

Turns out the little girl is 9 years old, and roller derby is the only thing that has gotten her to come out of her shell. A normally shy and quiet girl, when at a roller derby bout she stands up in the bleachers, screaming for her favorite team to “go faster” and “hit her”. How cool is that? Hearing stories like this makes me love derby more than I thought I ever could.

It was only after this brief discussion about her granddaughter that the office manager started recounting their having witnessed my first shoulder injury of last season.

“She was so upset when you skated over to the EMTs and sat down on the floor,” she said. “She asked me if she could go down there and hold your hand so you wouldn’t be upset or cry.”

I was honestly shocked. Most of my leaguemates didn’t even realize I was injured until I showed up at practice the next week in a sling, giggling from all the painkillers. How was it that this little girl who I didn’t even know existed could care this much about my injury? When I was the young fan’s age my role models were Punky Brewster and the Karate Kid. I can’t remember ever having any local role models, and it has been many years since I ever thought I might be one myself.

I guess it just goes to show that people are watching you, even when you feel far away from being watched, and at any given point in time you can be someone else’s role model. Shit, if that isn’t a reason to live your life with integrity, I don’t know what is.

I think it was Charles Barkley who said he didn’t want to be anyone’s role model. As my mom would say: "Guess what? Too bad." A kid who looks up to you doesn’t know or care about your intent. That’s not to say that we as rollergirls shouldn’t be ourselves, but we should at least be cognizant that people look to us – young and old – and we choose what we represent: strong, powerful, athletic women (hopefully). We may not all be perfect and we may not all be derby superstars, but I bet we’re all role models to someone: fans, kids, other rollergirls, or our friends. When we fall down, we get back up; when it hurts, we keep pushing; when we think we can’t but know we must, we find a way to do it. We may not ever see our names in lights or our handprints within a star on a sidewalk, but the most random images of us will be forever ingrained in some people’s minds.

I’m glad I made a good impression on the little girl who uses roller derby to come out of her shell, but I bet she’ll never know that the hope she expressed in her desire to “grow up to be a rollergirl” has really made an impression on me. After all, we’re all little girls at heart – we just hide it better these days. The belief that that little girl could be whomever she wanted to be and the compassion she showed to a stranger are things even us big girls can take a cue from. Many thanks to my little fan for teaching me a lesson!


Little Kenny said...

I'm not a roller girl, but am a huge fan of one the local teams, and the league for that matter, here in Los Strangeles. Great post and it applies to everyone. Men and women alike. Just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the post.


ps Was pointed here by Tara Armov of LADD from a post she made today.

Very Anonymous Mike said...

I believe that most of the time, we do not know when we're making a difference. It's a great reason to keep trying.

Oh, yea. *sniff*

SKabs said...